Manila Hotel’s Mid-Autumn Festival

by Gabrielle Borromeo & Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Published in Daily Tribune Life
September 13, 2011

If reading transports you to places you have never been to, eating during the Mid-Autumn Festival ushers you into worlds of culture, politics, spies and encrypted messages in times of war.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in the Manila Hotel’s Mabuhay Palace is not only the time of bountiful harvest, it is also a celebration of how the Chinese won the war by moon cake courier when they coincided the uprising against the Mongols with the moon cake festival. Chinese legend and lore has it that military tactics to resist the might of the Mongolian invasion were employed by disguising inscriptions on the moon
cakes 3,000 years ago.

Among the Chinese, it is the second most awaited festival next to the New Year. Manila Hotel’s Executive Chinese Chef Sun Bing and his team prepared a grand Cantonese feast for the Mid-Autumn Festival, which runs from Sept. 2 to
14. In keeping with tradition, dinner includes a moon cake dice game called Pua Tiong Chiu when the moon rises in its full splendor. This fun-filled dice game pumps the adrenaline of every player, as they wish and pray with every
roll of the dice that the combination of the dice spells out good fortune and the grand prize. Not to fret as almost every showing of a die of four wins a consolation prize.

The grand feast begins with an appetizer of Beijing-Style Roast Duck (One-way) much like a mini Shawarma with the thin pancakes and moist duck meat and a crunch of savory skin. The leek slivers and dash of hoisin sauce highlight the
succulent roast.

The Pan Fried Crabmeat Egg Whites with Crispy Conpoy Wrapped in Fresh Lettuce puts to the test your culinary know-how on how to handle the dish. The fragile mound of crabmeat sits inside a wide cup of lettuce and topped with fine shredded green and red bell peppers. It is best to roll the sides of the fresh lettuce to cover the crabmeat and bite into it like a wrap. The moist, delicate crab is light with the frothy egg whites circling the palate with its mousselike texture.

The first main course, Mabuhay Palace Chicken, is served two ways. The first way is done by blanketing a chicken fillet
on one side with deeply fried chicken skin and the other side crusted with black sesame seeds. In this way, an ordinary chicken is elevated to a juicy fillet with the crunch of the sesame seeds and the crispness of the
chicken skin. It is a cunning surprise of a dish executed by chef Sun Bing and executive sous chef Josephine Candelaria.

The second way is a spicy chicken sauté with cashews. The Mabuhay Palace chefs adjust the spiciness according to the nationality of the diners, executive sous chef Candelaria shared, as the level of desired spiciness depends on which country the diner hails from.

The piece de resistance is the split-steamed Live Pit Lobster. It is served with handmade wheat noodles cooked simply to highlight the fresh lobster meat drizzled with the orange Mabuhay Palace Supreme Sauce. Each scoop of the lobster is a taste of luxury and celebration, a toast to the bountiful harvest of the season.

The Fried Live Dragon Head Garoupa in Thai Chili Sauce is another showstopper as the scored flesh of the fish stands out in crisp cubes coated with Thai mango sauce and garnished with strips of sweet fresh mango. The spice of the sauce hits the end of the palate as the tender crispy fish beckons for another bite.

Braised Bailing Mushroom and Fish Maw ends the savory festive dishes that symbolize good luck and bounty and signal the entry of the sweet array of moon cake delicacies
dreamed up by chef Sun Bing and executive sous Chef Candelaria.

The confection selections are: Mango and cheese with salted yolk; Pandan (screwpine) with dark Malibu chocolate praline; Jasmine tea with dark hazelnut chocolate praline; Premium white lotus with watermelon seeds and salted yolk; and
the Mabuhay Palace signature moon cake with assorted nuts and dried cranberries.

The Mabuhay Palace is at the ground floor of the Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Manila City.

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